Buried Treasures

Originally uploaded by Steve Rawley

8:30 p.m. Friday, and the cool quiet outside beckons me away from the bright living room. I nuke a mug of water and steep Tangerine Zinger, sweetening it with a dollop of honey. I wrap up in the piano throw from the couch and step outside to sit on the Adirondack swing.

Cool, it is. Quiet, it is not. Even with the windows open, 2×6 walls block the traffic noise. But outside, the cars whoosh and hiss and roar and screech, and the interstate roars its omnipresence from a mile away. And for some unfathomable reason, three different air conditioners are running—one of them next door.

I grit my teeth and try to focus instead on the chirrup of insects, on the flawless harvest moon rising yellow behind a giant sycamore tree, casting light on the neighbors’ privacy fence while it leaves our yard in shadow. On Jupiter rising to the south as a satellite passes serenely northward. I raise the warm mug to my lips, and suddenly, there it is in my imagination: a scene, one of many I need for my new novel, almost fully formed. I whisper through it, testing its validity, and find it true. And then I go inside, (mostly) reconciled to the lack of quiet.

4:45 a.m. on Saturday, the household sleeps soundly, until…Bee-EEP! Bee-EEP! Bee-EEP! Christian flails around and smacks his alarm clock, and the noise ceases. But it doesn’t make any sense. That’s not what his alarm clock sounds like. He has the single most annoying alarm in the universe. BLAAT BLAAT BLAAT BLAT-BLAT! it honks without a steady tempo (the crowning insult). If that was his alarm, it’s broken. “Could it be the smoke detectors?” I ask. Christian mumbles incoherently. My whole body shaking, I set off to scour three levels, and finally find a green light blinking.

Blasted time change. When they were six months apart, it made sense to change your smoke detector batteries alongside. Now that they’re three months apart, how’re you supposed to remember?

I know I’m not going back to sleep, so I get dressed and go running beneath a blue-white spotlight. I come back to the house and step inside. And as the door closes, there it goes again. Bee-EEP! Bee-EEP! Bee-EEP! I plug my ears and wait, only this time, it doesn’t stop. It goes on and on. I’ve already been over the whole house; there is no fire. So I head upstairs. Christian is trying to pry the unit off the wall of the little ones’ room while Julianna wails. I pick her up, and she mag-locks her body to mine. Legs, arms, head—a black hole couldn’t break this grip.

And despite the keening, despite the lost sleep, I can’t help enjoying the moment, because she doesn’t like to snuggle, and she’s so snuggly.

#s 268-269 as I count to a thousand gifts with Ann.